The Friday USTA Florida blog is written by USTA Florida Communications Coordinator Rick Vach, and guest USTA Florida staff.
Wimbledon Diversity; USTA Florida Multicultural Camp A.C.E.
As we watch Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, and Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga slug it out today in the Wimbledon men's semifinals, there's a good amount of diversity out there on the lawns.
Recently USTA Florida's annual Multicultural Camp A.C.E. (Achievement through Coaching and Education) wrapped up in Daytona Beach. The camp each year serves a group of minority high-performance junior players from across Florida, and alumni of the program include Sloane Stephens who made inroads at Wimbledon this year, University of Florida standout Sekou Bangoura, and up and coming juniors (watch for these names in the women's pro ranks in a few years) Sachia Vickery and Victoria Duval.
This camp is unique as it's far from just hitting balls. USTA Florida's Shelly Licorish does an incredible job each year of bringing in some of the top coaches in the U.S. to mentor the youngsters. With the help of their parents who also attend, they strive to reach their goals on and off the court, becoming more well-rounded human beings as well as tennis champions in the process.
"When a kid comes up to you and thanks you for inviting him to the camp and then tells you he will make you proud after he leaves, it's all worth it," Licorish said.
The kids learn from pros that have been there like Rodney Harmon, the former US Open quarterfinalist and former director of men's tennis for the USTA High Performance program.
"I really enjoyed my time at the USTA Florida Multicultural Camp A.C.E.," Harmon said. "It is a tremendous opportunity for me to work on-court with the youngsters, speak to the parents in the classroom concerning the variety of issues confronting their children as they progress in the game, including selecting a coach and/or training program, putting together a tournament schedule and the importance of focusing on development over results."
With a support crew like that behind you, success is almost immanent for some of these kids, as it was for some of the shockingly-talented past groups of kids
who have come through USTA High Performance programs of various focus. Of course the majority of these kids were trained by personal coaches or their parents, but they also took advantage of USTA High Performance opportunities. Every little bit helps in this new era of training, where it's not always strictly with the USTA or strictly on your own with a personal coach/parent.
Here's to the U.S. producing champions of all colors and all backgrounds, with fewer road blocks to success.